Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Grahf Reviews - Devil May Cry

Well, I’ve spent long enough talking about reviews that I figure that it’s time that I actually, you know, do one.

Right here at the onset I have to say that I’m probably not going to be reviewing recent titles anytime soon, due to location and circumstance (read as: I’m poor and live in the ass end of nowhere). But that shouldn’t stop me from providing at least a couple of reviews now and then to refine my style and let it be judged. So, with that in mind.

Title: Devil May Cry
Platform: Playstation 2
Initial Release: October, 2001
Genre: Action

From Double Dragon to Streets of Rage, there has never been a lack of action titles. But when it comes to shift from 2D to 3D, Devil May Cry stands as one of the original progenitors of the way the genre has changed; games like Godhand, God of War, Heavenly Sword, the upcoming Asura’s Wrath, and many others have taken lessons from Devil May Cry in what to do and what to avoid, and for good reason.

The story is fairly simple: the world is threatened by the possible return of Mundus, a demonic king who was defeated by Dante’s father Sparda a couple of millennia before the events of the game start rolling. Dante is a brash, cocky but also skilled devil hunter who is approached by Trish - a woman claiming to know when Mundus will rise, and also baring more than a passing resemblance to Dante’s long dead mother: Eva.

Let’s be completely honest here, the story is probably the weakest aspect of this game, in that it generally is one of the weakest aspects of any action game. It does serve its purpose in that it gives an introduction and serves as a thread that holds the action together, but if you come into this expecting something riveting, you’re going to be disappointed. The character of Dante is a generally likeable guy, and wholly badass through and through. Aside from Dante though, none of the other characters are really fleshed out, mind you not that they sort of need to be. There’s some plot twists that are generally pretty inevitable, but aside from some occasional cheese (warning, spoilers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8qG4AlK1qk)  there’s nothing either exceptional or abhorrent enough write home about. But then again, the story isn’t really why anyone will be here, now is it?

No. What you’re here for is the combat, and it is my belief that DMC offers some of the most satisfying combat in the entire genre even when held up today against the modern contenders. Something that this series has that a lot of others, including many of its own sequels, don’t is a certain weight to combat. Hits that you both dish out and receive have some real oomph to them that isn’t present in a whole lot of the other titles. The weapon selection is limited, mainly composed of the lightning enhanced sword Alastor and the fire infused gauntlets Ifrit, but these weapons both have a varied assortment of abilities that serve their own purposes. Alastor has a solid balance between speed and power, while Ifrit is slower but packs a hell of a lot more of a punch. The combat is extended as well by the inclusion of a Devil Trigger: a super mode that gives access to more powerful and unique moves for each weapon. Dante’s arsenal is rounded out by an assortment of firearms that range from his pistols Ebony and Ivory, to a high impact Grenade Gun.

Of course, Dante himself is only half of the experience. The enemies that he fights make up the other half, and the original DMC has a large variety of unique and well designed enemies. The most basic enemy is the Marionette and Bloody Mari, human sized puppets that are clumsy but can move with frightening speed and punish players that don’t take them seriously. From there the enemies become more varied like the Shadow, a bestial creature that needs to be attacked with firearms before moving in to hack away at their exposed cores. A lot of the enemies are well balanced, and provide a challenge that is never simple or bland. I’m a great believer that a game doesn’t need to be cheap to be challenging, and while DMC is a game where you WILL die, a lot of the time it will be something that you recognize you could have prevented. Cheap enemies and deaths are something that drain the fun right out of these types of games, which is why it’s important to avoid them.

Of course, there are a variety of bosses as well. You will find that you will be fighting a lot of them multiple times, since of the bosses there are four that are recurrent. But enough different elements tend to be introduced each time to keep the fights from being tedious. From the giant lava spider Phantom (strange choice of a name) to the esoteric blob monster Nightmare, the challenge presented by each of the big baddies will prove more than enough for a lot of players, and bringing them down will have you shouting victory as you whittle that last millimetre of health off their bar.

Of course, the game isn’t without flaws. Although it’s almost a cliché at this point it stands that you will be struggling against a the camera system, an enemy that no amount of skill can overcome at times. Devil May Cry was originally envisioned as the next instalment in the Resident Evil series, so it uses a fixed angle camera that can make some battles more difficult than they really should be, as well as making some of the plat forming elements more frustrating than they normally are as well. Also as I mentioned above, the game - while not cheap from my experience - is quite challenging. Some players will find that they are dying too much for their liking, and some of the grinding that’s needed to buy abilities that might save your ass in the long haul will be tedious and might make some quit out of frustration at the stalling of progress. The graphics are solid for the time, but of course these days there’s very little to write home about. Also, the controls are solidly put together, but there’s no option for total customization. Some of the context sensitive moves are also difficult to pull off when the camera switches and maps new directions, so you’ll find yourself holding back instead of forward. These normally isn’t a huge concern, but can be quite an annoyance.

All in all, there should be about 15 to 25 hours worth of gameplay, with replayablility added for those that want it via being able to take on the harder difficulties with their skills intact. Fighting through Hard and then Dante Must Die difficulties is an immensely difficult but rewarding challenge for those interested in testing their skills.

All in all, Devil May Cry is a game that still fares well despite its age, and is well worth playing for anyone who’s a fan of the genre or who wants to get to some of the origins of the current way the genre looks. While it might be on a somewhat higher difficulty curve than some might be used to, it’s a pleasurable and challenging experience that is worth tracking down.

Overall Grade: A-  A solid Action title that will be a no brainer for fans of the genre and a good introduction to anyone looking to get in or see how the current generation developed.

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